The president’s fine words will have turned to mire if some radical changes aren’t made in the NATO response to the Libyan opposition forces’ pleas for help. Even as we have bathed in the glory of our fine participation in this global event, we have to consider the ramifications of a possibly sad and unforeseen turn of events. We have been proud of the untrained heroes, but our pride may have blinded us to the potentially tragic reality. These rebel fighters are untrained, poorly armed, lacking in oversight, and expected to fight with heavily armed soldiers of fortune whose livelihood comes from combat.
There is hope, with Secretary of State Clinton, British Foreign Secretary William Hague, and representatives from forty nations holding intense crisis talks in London aimed at stopping the Libyan loyalists and mercenaries from massacring the brave but rough-hewn rebel forces.
Although on the whole, the fighting in Libya has swayed back and forth, with many rebel victories, this, with NATO air strikes backing the freedom fighters, we see a painful turn of events in Bin Jawwad, where on Tuesday afternoon, the rebel fighters for freedom found themselves in disarray and full retreat. Rebels, in trucks that at one time may have hauled goods to and from markets found these same trucks skidding and slamming together as they raced two and three abreast to escape the tanks, rockets and firepower of the pursuing Gadhafi loyalist soldiers and militia. The highway carried a bloodied stream of civilians and rebel fighting men and boys away from the oil rigs and storage tanks in Bin Jawwad that these same rebels had taken as theirs a few hours earlier. In four short hours, the rebels returned seventy miles of Libyan terrain. The rebels sought refuge in Ras Lanuf; they found little relief. Ras Lanuf, too, was under loyalist seizure that same night. Shaken rebels called for air relief, which never came. Instead from above came only an artillery barrage from Gadhafi’s armies.
Reports on Wednesday tell a similiar story; rebel forces are still being driven back, still losing ground. Diplomats are having heated discussions whether to provide arms and training to these opposition fighters.